Pardon me while I ask a trivial question

by John Holbo on June 15, 2009

While we all wonder what is going to happen in Iran, a trivial question: what are single quotes for?

I just got my Plato book [yes, you can read the whole thing!] ms. back from Pearson for final-final-final corrections and it’s clear the proofreader is not a philosopher. That’s actually not a bad thing, since it means fresh eyes about some things. One thing I’m not sure about: I’m being told not to use single-quotes. Since there are a number of places where I definitely need them for use-mention purposes, I’m going to have to put my foot down. This probably means I should announce to the reader what the convention is. But then I have to state it and, the truth is, I also use ‘scare quotes’ – single-quotes to indicate that there’s something questionable or problematic about a term or phrase. There are a few bits where I briefly conjure a bit of hypothetical dialogue and use single quotes to make it look more speech-like. Looking at all these red marks, I gotta clean up my act. Maybe the proper thing to do is restrict myself to necessary use-mention uses and don’t use the things for anything else. What is your preference, if any? (I don’t mean just about my book. In general. What are single-quotes for?)

That’s No Way To Steal An Election

by John Holbo on June 15, 2009

Like all of you, I’m wondering what’s going on in Iran. Here’s a question I haven’t seen addressed (because it’s premature, that’s why, but I’ll ask it anyway): assuming that the election was stolen, why didn’t those responsible do a more competent job of covering up the evidence? Why the 11th hour scramble? If the election was stolen in this apparently crude, last-minute way, it would appear that the regime was in substantial denial about what was about to happen; which says something. Or it was unable to coordinate a large scale conspiracy to rig the election smoothly, further in advance, presumably for fear that some who were brought into the effort would betray it. That would say something, too.

Here’s a question that maybe people can answer: what’s the history of rigged elections? Are they mostly rigged well in advance, or do those in power do something crude and last-minute when they realize, to their surprise, that they are actually in danger of losing?